Designing a Modern House
How big is that main room: It’s 24 feet by 36 feet, but it seems even bigger because you’ve just come through that doorway. You feel small in comparison to the scale of the house. Actually, the house is not that large — the footprint is only about 1,800 square feet. It just feels large because it’s all about the volume of the main room.
What happens in that space: It’s the heart of the house. This is our weekend place, and we’re part of this great close-knit community up at the lake. People are always coming in and out, and we wanted to create a gathering space. My partner, Chase Booth, likes to cook, and there will usually be a few friends hanging out. It’s nice having everything in one space — living, dining, kitchen — rather than breaking it up into three separate rooms. This way, we can all converse.
While looking out that huge wall of glass at the lake: When you’re sitting in here, it feels almost like a covered porch or an open-air pavilion. The first thing we do when we arrive is push back all the sliding glass doors, and they stay open the entire weekend. There will be birds flying through. People cruising by in their boats say hello. It’s basically an outdoor room.
It’s as if the glass walls have erased the boundaries between inside and out.
That’s exactly right. I love nature, and I like to be outdoors. This house lets us feel that we’re a part of it. And that kind of openness seems very modern to me. It’s how I want to live now. I’ve always been inspired by the Farnsworth House, outside of Chicago, by Mies van der Rohe. It’s this beautifully modern glass structure in the middle of a forest. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I see you extended that main room with a large outdoor deck. Can you dive right into the lake: Practically. We pushed the house right to the edge. After dinner, we’ll often take our drinks and go down to the dock and get into our boat. We restored a 1947 wood Chris-Craft — it’s my baby. We’ll leave that Noguchi paper lantern on over the dining table, and it’s like a beacon when we’re out on the lake at night. You look back and see this big white orb — it’s as if the moon is setting really low in the sky.
The moon? It’s practically a planet. How big is that light: Forty-seven inches in diameter. When the doors are all open, it sways back and forth in the breeze. It took us the longest time to figure out what kind of fixture to put there. We knew it had to be something special. This feels ethereal. There’s something very calming about it.
Clearly, you like things big: It’s a big room, and you want furniture that’s in proportion to it. The dining table is 12 and a half feet long. When we first saw it in an antiques shop, we thought it might be too big, but it turned out to be the perfect size. The sofa is also 12 feet long. On a Sunday morning in winter, we’ll light a fire, stretch out at each end, and read the paper.
Tell me about that fireplace. It’s not exactly self-effacing: Again, it had to suit the scale of the room. It’s an engineering wonder — a massive, freestanding elliptical fireplace that punctures the volume and spans three stories — basement, living room, and roof deck.
You mean you can walk all the way around it: Yes. The house next door is very close, and I wanted to mask it, but at the same time, I didn’t want to block the windows. By pulling it out from that wall, I still get the morning light.
Why did you run the bricks vertically: It’s a more modern way to lay brick — it’s called a soldier course. And if we had laid it horizontally, we wouldn’t have been able to make the curve.
This is a very modern house. How come it doesn’t feel cold: People think of modern as being cold and sterile, but we like to play up the warmth. And you do that with materials. Natural linen curtains soften the space and create privacy. The floor is white oak — eight-inch-wide planks that feel as if they’ve been bleached by the sun. Rustic elements, like the rough wood table, balance out the hard, smooth surfaces. And then there’s that long-haired goatskin rug that we bought in Paris. It’s luxurious and decadent, and we couldn’t resist. It sheds and seems a bit impractical for a house in the country, but it has held up very well. The dogs love to play on it.